2 Samuel 24:13-23 OTBDC: Did the loving God take the life of the child of David because of the sin of David and Bathsheba?

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 140 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

It was David and Bathsheba who sinned egregiously, why did their son have to die, since Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20 specifically tell us that a son is not to die for the error of his father?

Deuteronomy 24:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, neither shall sons be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

Ezekiel 18:20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
20 The soul[1] that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the error of the father, neither shall the father bear the error of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be on him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be on him.

[1] Or person

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Both David and Bathsheba were married to other persons when they committed adultery with one another, and she became pregnant. Their adultery was a serious sin that was punishable by death under the Law of God. (2 Samuel 11:1-5; Deuteronomy 5:18; 22:22) Therefore, if God had allowed them to face the consequences of their punishment by humans under the Mosaic Law, the son growing in her womb would have died along with his mother. However, Jehovah chose to handle the situation differently, which “the Judge of all the earth” unquestionably had a right to do. – Genesis 18:25.

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When David was confronted with his guilt, he acknowledged: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” Then Nathan told David: “Jehovah also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13) David received mercy because he was a main person who would produce the “seed” who would crush Satan the Devil. (Genesis 3:15) The “seed” would come through Abraham. (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 22:18) The “seed” would come through the line of David. (1 Samuel 11:15; 2 Samuel 7:8, 16.) Furthermore, God is able to read heart motivations, he could clearly assess the genuineness of David’s repentance and resolved that there was good reason for showing him mercy, as well as Bathsheba. Nevertheless, they would not avoid all of the ramifications of their error. They were told: “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:14) This was not a sentence on the child, it was a prophecy of what was to come because the child grew sick. As is true with most biblical history that covers 4,000 years, we do not have all the facts, such as the health of the infant immediately after Bathsheba gave birth. The child clearly died from something other than God’s hand. Even David later recognized: “As for God, his way is perfect; the word of Jehovah proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” – 2 Samuel 22:31; compare Job 34:12; Isaiah 55:11.

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This same mindset is found in David at the time Jehovah had decided that he was not going to step in and save the child. During the child’s sickness, David mourned and fasted. However, once the child died as had been prophesied, David understood that the matter was closed. (2 Samuel 12:22-23) Thus, David put his trust in the judgment of God. He then began to comfort Bathsheba (now married to David), assuring her that their marriage would go on. They had regained God’s favor to the point that David’s successor would be a sone between him and Bathsheba, Solomon. Thus, this historical account does not conflict with Deuteronomy 24:16 or Ezekiel 18:20. The directive at Deuteronomy 24:16 was given to the Israelite Judges who were managing legal cases. Those Judges could not read hearts. Those situations were different in that the loss of life of the child was due to human sickness because of being imperfect humans, not at the hand of God, while the loss of life by the human judges was due to the guilt of the person committing the action, which was established by the factual evidence in the case. The situation with Ezekiel 18:20 is quite different as well because it dealt primarily with adult sons and fathers. The context deals with a son who was aware of his father’s wickedness and yet the son refused to be a part of that wickedness; instead, he walked with God based on the Mosaic Law. If the father suffered death because of his deeds, the son would not share in those sins, he would not die. – Ezekiel 18:14-17.

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Even so, looking at fathers and sons throughout human history, or even the entire family in general, children offer suffer difficulties because of the consequences of their parent’s actions. If the parents were lazy or  wasted the money for the household, the children lived in poverty. Then, there is the case of parents who commit crimes and go to prison, resulting in a far more difficult life for their children. And because of the decisions of some in the Israelite nation, the distresses that God himself brought on Israel directly by bringing about some calamity or indirectly by not stopping some calamity. (Deuteronomy 28:15, 20-32; Ezekiel 8:6-18; 9:5-10) Conversely, God urged his people: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse; and you must choose life so that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving Jehovah your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that Jehovah swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”—Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

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God is responsible for everything, but not always directly. If he started the human race, and we end up with what we now have, in essence, he is responsible. Just as parents, who have a child are similarly responsible for the child committing murder 21 years into his life because they procreated and gave birth to the child. The mother and father are indirectly responsible. King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and has her husband Uriah killed to cover things up, and impregnates Bathsheba, but the adulterine child, who remains nameless, died. Is God responsible for the death of that child? We can answer yes and no to that question. He is responsible in two ways: (1) He created humankind, so there would have been no affair, murder, or an adulterine child if he had not. (2) He did not step in and save the child when he had the power to do so. However, he is not directly responsible, because he did not make King David and Bathsheba commit the acts that led to the child being born, nor did he bring an illness on the adulterine child, he just did not move in to protect the child, in a time that had a high rate of infant deaths.

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